Archive for the ‘Lombardia’ Category

Lake Garda is Italy’s largest lake, and one of the most beautiful. Its shoreline grows the northernmost palm trees in the peninsula, and the fields around it yield a lovely olive oil. But for the resolutely focused wine lover, its greatest accomplishments are the splendid wines it produces, especially from the Lugana zone along its southeastern rim.

This small wine zone – with a very distinctive soil, predominantly white clays and limestone varied with alluvial deposits, volcanic traces, and stony mountain gravel – seems to have a vocation for white wines. Those soils give Lugana white wines great freshness and character, making them wonderful food wines, companions to everything from fresh shellfish to roasted fowl. With warm weather not too far off (he said hopefully), those whites are getting my attention now.

Recently, I had the opportunity to taste an array of them, at a wine luncheon arranged by Susannah Gold, who represents the Lugana consorzio in the US. I enjoyed ten wines, in all of Lugana’s approved styles: Spumante, Lugana, Lugana Superiore, Lugana Riserva, and Vendemmia Tardiva.

All the wines are made from a single variety: Turbiana, alias Trebbiano di Lugana. Despite the alias, Turbiana isn’t related to actual Trebbianos, but rather is a close relative of the Adriatic coast’s esteemed Verdicchio. Those who follow Italian wine closely know that’s a good family to belong to: Verdicchio yields wines that not only drink well when young but are also capable of fine aging. As winemaking techniques grow more sophisticated in the Lugana zone, its Turbiana is showing an ability to follow suit.

One other important item about Lugana: All its wines spend a long time on their lees, which makes them rounder and fuller, a sort of underscoring of the varietal fruit and flavor. Some white grapes lose freshness with that sort of treatment, but that has – in my experience – never been a problem for Lugana.

So here are the wines I tasted:

  • Sguardi di Terra Lugana Brut Spumante. This sparkler was made by the champagne method, Metodo Champenoise, and a charmer it was, a perfect apéritif: dry, lightly frizzante, with lovely fresh white-fleshed-fruit flavors.
  • Citari Lugana Sorgente 2020. This and the next wine partnered casonsèi, a rustic sausage-stuffed pasta of Lombardy, dressed with butter and sage. Both were very enjoyable with the dish. This wine was very soft and round, lightly fruity, with subdued acidity.
  • La Meridiana Lugana 2020 Organic. This wine was somewhat similar to the Citari, but a touch more subdued and also fuller. Perhaps it was a bit closed: It might need a little more time in bottle. It showed very fine acidity and a fine, dry, fruit finish, which bodes well for it.
  • Tenuta Roveglia Limne 2020. This and the next two wines accompanied a more complex meat-filled cabbage roll served in tomato sauce. Again, all three wines matched excellently with the food. This one was very nice indeed, biggish, with lots of fruit and minerality.
  • Colli Vaibò Lugana 2019. This wine greatly resembled the preceding one, and it bloomed with the food, opening to show more and more character. The extra year of aging, here as in the next wine, seems to make a real difference. Very fine.
  • Zeni Lugana Vigne Alte 2019. This was the biggest, most mouth-filling wine of this trio, and it grew even bigger and more flavorful with the food. As it opened, I tasted a resemblance to Soave Classico: Some people conjecture that Turbiana, aka Trebbiano di Lugana, is related to Trebbiano di Soave.
  • Seiterre Lugana Superiore 2018. A lovely, pale gold wine, with all the characteristic flavors of its breed, nicely maturing.
  • Zenato Riserva 2016. This wine showed more body and depth of flavor than its very light gold color would lead you expect. It is in no way tired or even peaking, which gives some hint of what Turbiana can do.
  • Tenuta Roveglia Filo di Ariana. Medium-bodied late harvest wine, with good minerality and suggestions of almond and white fruits. This wine comes from old vines, which gives it nice concentration and a bit of intensity.
  • Cobue 31 October 2019. A very pretty-in-the-mouth dessert wine vinified from overripe late harvest grapes. Its whimsical name tells you exactly when that occurred: the last day of October, 2019.

This lunch provided an impressive demonstration of Turbiana’s great range. Its zone may be small, but its potential is large indeed.

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